A small team of us were recently fortunate to be invited to visit Zwett Tulips in Holland to discover the process involved in producing the much-loved Tulip for our enjoyment and pleasure.

Zwettulips is one of the leading companies in the sector, anually producing millions of standard tulips. Since 1989, they have focussed on growing solely tulips. They pride themselves on quality, quantity and offering a wide range of tulip varieties using new and environmentally friendly production facilities.

The process starts outdoors, the bulbs are planted in the fields in December and by May, they are fully bloomed. The heads are removed for composting, leaving the leaves to take up all the energy and oxygen for the bulbs. In July, they are harvested and checked for size and delivered to the growers in August. Boxes containing 30,000 bulbs each are ready to be processed in November / December.

Tulip bulbs are delivered in containers ready to be planted

The bulbs are hand planted in crates containing spikes. The crates are washed thoroughly to avoid bacteria. There are 135 bulbs per crate in order to meet production requirements. The crown (from which the root grows) is manually checked for mould or any damage.

Bulbs in individual crates

Once planted, the crates are stacked and stored in coolers (4-5 degrees celsius) for approximately 3 weeks during which the roots grow. There is air flower between the crates to keep the bulbs fresh.

Bulbs with roots ready for production

The crates are transferred to Aluminium tables in the greenhouses where they are watered every 3 days using an automated water pressure system overhead. By January 1st, all of the tables and crates are filled. A table is never empty for more than 3 hours! It takes 19 to 21 days from planting to harvest! In the height of the season, 1 million Tulips are cut and sent out per day.

Planted Tulips in Greenhouses for flower market

The tulips are grown on water as it is much more economical, faster and more importantly, eco-friendly. To maintain and meet certain laws in the Netherlands, 600 thousand litres of water using an oxy-fiter is recycled and purified supporting a cooling system for the greenhouses.

Tulips will not grow if the temperatures rise above 20 degrees celsius. Tulips are typically available to purchase on the flower market from November / December to April / May.

It takes 19-21 days from planting to harvest!

When harvested, the tulips are pulled manually from the crates in multiples of 10 stems. The conveyor belt will pass them to the production area where their machines automatically bunch the stems together. The computer is programmed to provide the weight and height of the bunch. They are then packed manually into buckets of 150 stems.

Standard Tulips are commerically sold on the flower market in bunch sizes of 50 stems or 150 stems varying in stem lengths of 30 to 40cm. They have one flower per stem and their leaves have a rubbery, fleshy feel to them. Incredibly, Tulips constitute to 60% of the total flowers sold in Holland!

It was certainly a privilege to get an inside view on how this increasingly popular bulb flower is produced. I will never look at a Tulip again in quite the same way!

Learn more about Tulips and different varieties available on the flower market on our blog here.

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